Cheryl Sosnowski - artist, mindfulness meditation + creativity trainer, entrepreneur and inventor. I have a patent and everything!
Hello! I'm Cheryl. Grab a cup of something and settle in for this story. First - I am a freedom loving joy seeker! My purpose is to make the world a happier place through art, mindfulness for managing mindset, and creating meaningful community. I value freedom of mind and spirit, authentic connections, and being in the present moment.
Hello friend. I know what it is to be in misery, depression, anxiety, overwhelming stress - and using addiction to cope with it all. I was addicted to food, to shopping, to numbing out - and almost turned myself into an alcoholic. Escapism and living from the low-frequency shadow self is something I know waaaaay too much about. But as someone much wiser than me said - when you know better you do better. But how do you know what to do when you feel…stuck. Alone. Lost? I know how embarrassing it is to ask for help, and how shameful it feels when you appear to have your shit together on the outside, but on the inside you are falling apart.
My Story, Briefly:
I grew up in an very abusive childhood. I was told I was unwanted, and that I was “rotten.” I was abused sexually, mentally and emotionally by multiple family members. We were also poor, definitely what you can call “white trash” - but I later learned that THAT term has nothing to do with money - it’s a mindset attached to lack of self-worth. So like most girls who go through what I did, I turned into a statistic. I was drinking and smoking pot by the time I was 12. I dropped out of high school in 10th grade and lived for a year as a teenage runaway on the streets of LA. By the grace of GOD I was never prostituted or got into serious drugs, like I saw many of my friends get into and some even die from. I lived in a group home, and with a friend, and in foster homes. Which believe me, no one wants a teenage girl with an attitude in their home for very long. I was sent to live with my “dad” - which basically turned out to be an even bigger party scene than where I was. I met a man who was older than me when I was 16 and moved in with him.
His mom was a high-school guidance counselor who insisted I was much too smart to be living the way I was living. She encouraged me to go back to high school. I stopped drinking and smoking and began to answer that feeling in me that there HAD to be more than this. I went to college briefly and dropped out for what was then, a great job.
I was always a seeker. All along there was a pull in me, a center of me that said “this can’t be all there is. You were created for MORE than this.” I remember playing “church” when I was little - my stuffed animals were the congregants. And I also pretended to be Nancy Drew a lot and solve “mysteries” - most of which were made up. If there was one thing I learned from a traumatic childhood, it was how to escape into my imagination. For that I am SO grateful.
Suicide Attempt + God
I had a suicide attempt when I was 21. Not a cry for attention suicide attempt. I WAS going to do it, and on my way out the door (I was going to drive off of a cliff on a road I knew of in California). When I hear people say suicide is selfish, I assure them it’s not. It’s relief from a never-ending darkness, hopelessness and despair, and feeling like you are utterly and terribly alone. It totally felt like relief that I could end this misery. I was on my way out the door when a reflection caught my eye in the glass of a painting. It was like it pierced through the relief and peace I felt in my decision and opened the wound of sadness, loneliness and grief. I fell sobbing onto the floor and cried out to God - “If there is a meaning and purpose to this shitty existence, PLEASE show me mine.” I heard a distinct, booming voice in my head command me: “GO TO SLEEP.” And suddenly I was so overcome with sleepiness, I barely made it to bed - it was like I was sedated. I do not remember the dream I had that night, or what I was shown, but I DO remember the music - to this day I can clearly hear it in in my mind, though it’s not like Earth music. This music was made of light. That’s the only way I can explain it - it felt like light. Music on Earth has a “timbre” to it - it feels heavy.
I wish I could say voila, everything was great from then on out. But it wasn’t. But at least I had the music as my tangible symbol of hope.
I still partied. I still worked my way up the corporate ladder and lived in my low-frequency shadows of lying, victimhood, and superficiality. I totally pretended to be someone I wasn’t. I totally appeared as someone who had it all together but I didn’t. I still didn’t deal with my issues. I was still running from myself and searching for myself at the same time. I was just…numb.
Marriage + Babies + Nervous Breakdowns
After all of my 10 YEARS of self-help gurus, books, seminars, I was still a numbed out. I “knew” all the stuff in my head but I wasn’t living it. I was definitely not being it. I met a man who was as emotionally void as I was and we lived a peaceful (and dispassionate) life together. Until I had my daughter and fell in love. You can’t love in only one area of your life. When your heart opens, it opens.
I had still not dealt with ANY of my childhood issues, and I tried stuffing my emotions down by ignoring them and throwing myself into being a GREAT Mom, to NOT be like MY mom. I was parenting out of equal parts love and fear. I quit my amazingly successful job in management in a fortune 100 company. Eventually I was more miserable than ever, and began thinking something was wrong with me. But I never sought help. I never shared what I was feeling. I was ashamed because all the other mommy and me friends seemed to LOVE being a stay at home mom. *clue in retrospect - getting together at 2 so we could all drink wine - not that happy. I threw myself into being a Mom and literally, in 7 years and 2 kids, NEVER took a break from my kids - not even half a day. #ridiculous
And all of that lead to me suffering a stress induced nervous breakdown stemming from NOT dealing with my feelings.
In the chaos of my breakdown I destroyed everything I had worked so hard to build. My tower of cards fell. I knew better, but I didn’t know what to do, how to “fix” myself . My negative self-talk was killing me.
Because even though I WAS (and AM) a great Mom, there was a voice in me telling me I was a terrible mom. There as a voice constantly judging me that I wasn’t good enough - for anything or anyone. It told me my kids were WAY better off without me. That voice drove me to the brink of suicide - again.
Turns out, I didn’t know the love I needed I could give to myself.
Thank God, I discovered the power of creating art to relax and heal, and the POWER of mindfulness though MBSR training. The change in my mind and life was so noticeable that I decided to dedicate the rest of my life to mindfulness training. I have done both MBSR (mindfulness based stress reduction) and MSC (mindful self-compassion) training, have completed a 1 year intensive training with UCLA’s MARC institute, am a certified MBSR-T trainer, and a certified Mindfulness Teacher through MindfulSchools and Mindfulness Exercises. I love neuroscience and keep up with all the latest research pertaining to mindfulness, creativity, character strengths and positive psychology. (I have literally read 200+ books and research papers on the topics!)
I realized that real joy, real connection and deep living don’t just come from the mind - they come from the heart, and art making is THE tool for opening and softening the heart. I didn’t know you are allowed to talk lovingly and kindly to yourself. I also know my character strengths, and my Gene Kays, and I honor them by living in them each day and using mindfulness as my mindset tool to keep me focused, present, and intentional in my self-talk and actions. My mind works in conjunction with my heart now - and I am an entirely different person than I was. Or rather, I am the same person - but I no longer live from a low-frequency shadow vibration and victim mindset - I now live from a higher-vibration frequency of self-love, faith and gratitude! *Interestingly enough - my life’s purpose gene key is self-assurance and the shadow state is superficiality!
This I know: if I can be this authentically joyful, free, calm and at peace - anyone can, and my passion is guiding people back home to themselves through art and mindfulness practices.
What if what you’ve been through has been preparing you for something greater?
If you think you’re not good enough, think again! You are more loved than you know, and you ARE creative and you were created to create. The question to constantly ask is “What am I creating today? What am I creating in my life and in other people’s lives when I do this?” It’s science - every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Karma. As you plant so shall you reap. Every action is creating your life. When you learn to stay present you learn to create what you want to create. As St. Francis said, you stop letting the donkey ride you - you ride the donkey.
I used to be SO ashamed of my background, so I pretended to be someone else. Someone “normal” - whatever that means! I literally never shared my story or background. But your story doesn’t define you. To remain a victim - especially at your own hand - is a choice. Now I know my story is an inspiration to others. And asked once if I could do my life over would I have it be different, I said no. And I mean it. I am compassionate, kind, thoughtful, and strong - because of my story. I learned to escape into my imagination and be curious because of my story.
I also know that my story is still being written - and that I hold the pen.
Because I lived in the dark, I love the light. Because I was faithless, I have deep faith. Because I was unloved, I love deeply. Because I lost everything, I appreciate what I have.
Now I give back. I sit on the board of The Resiliency Council of Phoenix, teach mindfulness in schools to children and teachers for Mindfulness First, and I facilitate Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction for teens classes for at risk teens. I am a passionate and dedicated volunteer and professional teaching artist for Free Arts for Abused Children of Arizona. Having found my way out of the darkness, I think it's my duty to be a light to kids who are where I used to be. One person CAN and DOES make a difference in a kid’s life. (You can be that person - be a volunteer!) Honestly, it can be ONE thing someone says that changes a life.
I currently run two businesses - Create Space Studio, and Brushed With Luv - a collaborative painting experience company.
When I'm not doing all of these things, I love spending my free time hiking with my dog Nama (get it? Nama sit, Nama stay…), or with the people I love - especially my husband and kids, laughing and enjoying life. I love to laugh until my face hurts. I have been told I dance like I'm breathing, which is true - it's my other passion. I love all kinds of music, and my idiot savant talent is knowing all the words to (almost) every song - but can’t name a band to save my life (I think that’s why God used music in my dream to reach me). I enjoy deep, meaningful conversations and adventure travel, I am freakishly punctual, I loooooove tacos, and really care about and am curious about people and I talk to everyone - people tell me really weird random things all the time and I love it! I am a compulsive book sniffer (and bookworm), and I hate cheese. Yes, really. :)
If you read all of this we should be friends. :) Say Hi!